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Ch 1a: pp 1-5

For the Medieval Dinosaur in all of us.

Ch 1a: pp 1-5

Postby Stanley Anderson » 29 Jan 2007, 21:58

(9 paragraphs beginning with “Medieval man shared…” and ending with “…the passage in Deguileville.”)
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Here begin comments about actual chapters in TDI. Since I have a set of relatively unconnected thoughts about this section, I’ll separate those by dashed lines so as not to confuse one idea from being thought of as a development of the previous idea.
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I love this opening to the book – it reminds me of something Lewis is good at. He tells us what Medieval thought is NOT like, and I find myself thinking, “yes, but what you are describing is about all there could be, so what is left for Medieval thought to be LIKE?”. And of course he then goes on to tell us what is left, at which point the reader thinks (or at least I do) “Oh. Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?”
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Lewis in this section mentions as an example of his contention about Medieval beliefs a selection from [i[Brut[/i] by Lazamon. Apart from the point Lewis is making, since he mentions Brut, I can’t resist quoting a comment he makes about the same work in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (I’ll abbreviate this as either SiMaRL or SMRL – the first abbreviation looks almost like “Silmaril” doesn’t it:-). The section in that book about Brut is quite extended, but near the end Lewis makes this comment about the Brut and the literary merits of its author Lazamon:

…I have kept to the end two touches that seem to me proofs of yet higher power. One turns on two words. We are twice told, of a storm at sea that the waves were like “burning towns” (or villages)…. It may be the phrase of a longshoreman rather than a sailor; waves out at sea are less likely to give this particular appearance. But I do not think I shall ever again see a breaker coming in against the wind without remembering the burning towns.

--from “The Genesis of a Medieval Book”


I won’t take up the space to quote the other of the two “touches” that Lewis mentions in SiMaRL(unless I am prodded:-). An enticement to read that book?:-) In any case, I now have that “burning towns” image burned in my mind too.
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The concept Lewis is talking about in this first section of the chapter – ie, that the Medieval mind got a good share of its beliefs from books rather than experience, and how Lewis traces the Brut imagery about the inhabited air all the way back to Plato and beyond but which connections were unknown to the English poet (“it is further from him that he is from us”) reminds me a bit (but don’t ask me how – it just “comes”:-) of Ransom’s viewing of the carvings and his conversation with the pfiffltrig on Meldilorn who carved Ransom’s portrait in OSP.
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In the second illustration Lewis uses to make his point about the origins of Medieval belief, I love the idea of the separation of the Earth and Sky as occurring at the sphere of the Moon. Above is the immutable and permanent, and below is the mutable and changeable. I can’t remember if he points this out later, but the moon is the one celestial body that, although its face is unchanging, appears to be “inconstant” by its continual phase changes from new moon to full and back. Everything else “above” that sphere does not change (as far as the medieval knew). In light of this, how frightening a solar eclipse or a supernova must indeed have seemed to those who thought of the sun as one of the “permanents”, unchangeable in contrast to what everything on earth seems to be.

Lewis uses this Lunar separation between Earth and the Heavens to great effect in the Space Trilogy as the boundary between Thulcandra’s corrupted influence and the other “spheres”. But the purpose of the illustration in TDI is about Medieval literary connections to belief rather than about cosmology in particular at this point, so more on this subject is probably best reserved for discussions in later chapters.

--Stanley
Last edited by Stanley Anderson on 05 Mar 2007, 16:51, edited 1 time in total.
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Postby Sven » 29 Jan 2007, 22:24

Another point I found of interest in SMRL about Brut that I think relates to today's reading was his comments in chapter 2 that

C. S. Lewis wrote:...much of its matter is dull...

The dull passages are a legacy from its known sources; its vividness, fire, and grandeur, are new.


A short while later he goes on to say that Geoffrey of Monmouth's work was the primary yet unworthy foundation for the poem. This seems to conflict with his emphasis, in this TDI reading, on the written record over experience. The 'vivid, fiery, and grand' parts of Brut, if not from the earlier works, must come from the life experiences of La3amon. If it were just the literary gifts of La3amon shining, then it should have fired up the bits from Geoffrey.

A side question. Anyone have any idea how 'La3amon' is pronounced?
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Postby Leslie » 30 Jan 2007, 03:20

Sven wrote:
A side question. Anyone have any idea how 'La3amon' is pronounced?


This is from a page of a professor at California State University Northridge.

3 -- (yogh) pronounced like the y in yes when it is next to the vowel i or e. When next to other vowels, it is pronounced somewhere between a w and the ch in German Bach. Occasionally, an e which would indicate the y pronunciation is missing (e.g. 3ond, as in modern 'beyond').



And here's another very interesting quote from a SUNY at Buffalo listserv:

And now a comment on the letter "3," or "yogh," which is found in older English and Scottish, but is not used today. (Aren't you glad you have a language buff on the list?) It is written like a "z" with a curved tail down below the line, as in the "z" of an old German typeface. It is often hand-written with the tail sweeping off to the right. Priscilla Tolkien says that on one occasion her father, J R R Tolkien, was talking with some friends in a bar in Ireland, and said, "The tail of a properly written yogh goes off like this!" He made a dramatic sweep with his hand and struck the nose of the man next to him, a complete stranger. He turned to the man and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry, I hope you are not hurt, I was just explaining that the tail of a yogh goes off like this." He then hit the man in the nose again. Fortunately, according to Miss Tolkien, the Irish find it quite reasonable that scholars should be a little crazy, and the man was quite understanding. In modern English, a word formerly written with a yogh is now usually written with a "g" or a "gh" or a "y". Those of you who know a little German will have noticed that German "g" often corresponds to English "y". Thus TAG = "day," WEG = "way," and HEILIG = "holy." You will see the mediaeval author "Geoffrey de Layamon" with his name so written in most books, but if the reference is by a scholar and the typesetting facilities permit, it may appear as "Geoffrey de La3amon." When you see a "gh" in modern English, there is a chance that it was once written with a yogh. (Second guess would be "ch" as in "licht" and words rhyming with it above.) The original sound of the yogh is, I believe, something like the German "ch" in "Bach," only voiced (pronounced with the voicebox vibrating.). Try the "g" in "cigar" pronounced Spanish style. When we stopped using this sound in English, the pronunciation of words with "gh" went off in all directions, to the despair of persons learning English spelling.


I keep thinking that when I retire I'd like to do a master's degree in historical linguistics. Can't wait. :smile:
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"At myself. My little puny self," said Phillipa.
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 30 Jan 2007, 16:10

Sven wrote:Another point I found of interest in SMRL about Brut that I think relates to today's reading was his comments in chapter 2 that

C. S. Lewis wrote:...much of its matter is dull...

The dull passages are a legacy from its known sources; its vividness, fire, and grandeur, are new.


A short while later he goes on to say that Geoffrey of Monmouth's work was the primary yet unworthy foundation for the poem. This seems to conflict with his emphasis, in this TDI reading, on the written record over experience. The 'vivid, fiery, and grand' parts of Brut, if not from the earlier works, must come from the life experiences of La3amon. If it were just the literary gifts of La3amon shining, then it should have fired up the bits from Geoffrey.


I'm not sure if I fully understand your comment here, but I'm thinking that it is the source or subject matter or "scientific" or mythical exposition that the Medievals got from their books, but that the expression (whether inspired with fire or dreary with dullness) and organization and "meshing" of all the information into a unified whole is what makes it uniquely medeival. If not, there would hardly be any point in reading or studying medieval texts since they would in effect be nothing more than facsimiles of the original ancient work.

So when Lewis says that La3amon (thanks for the 3 by the way -- I wasn't sure how to represent the character before and used a z as the next best thing to going to a character map:-) "believes in these daemons because he has read about them in a book", it is the existence of the daemons that La3amon got from the book, but his presentation of the daemons in either a lively or dull way would be his own talents and experience showing them forth. Likewise, as Lewis goes on, "...just as most of us believe in the Solar System or in the anthropoligists' accounts of early man", we might accept modern cosmology on account of what we read in news accounts or science books and journals, but we are mesmerized by popular writers who take those established ideas and make them sound poetic or beautiful or mysteriously seductive (I suppose it takes some kind of talent to make a phrase like "billlllionsss and billllionnnss of stars" take on an iconic status:-).

But perhaps you mean otherwise?

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Postby Sven » 30 Jan 2007, 20:36

Nope, you saw through my way of putting it to what I was trying to say. It points out how highly valued the written record was that La3amon didn't try to make it more readable for his poem, but presented it as found.

I used the '3' for the yogh out of sheer laziness, here's the lower case yogh, ȝ, for copy-and-paste as desired. "Laȝamon".

Wouldn't 'historical lingustics' be philology?
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Postby Leslie » 31 Jan 2007, 01:28

Sven wrote:
Wouldn't 'historical lingustics' be philology?

Almost. It's perhaps the closest that linguistics gets to philology, but it's not quite the same thing. And not all philology is historical. Linguistics tends to have a more scientific and theoretical approach, whereas philology tends to deal more with texts and literature. Linguistics is also a newer field than philology -- it has only been around since the 1940s (roughly). But some would say that a historical linguist and a historical philologist are essentially the same in technique and theoretical underpinnings.
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"At myself. My little puny self," said Phillipa.
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Postby Sven » 31 Jan 2007, 01:32

A linguist is primarily concerned with spoken language, and a philologist with the written?
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Postby Leslie » 31 Jan 2007, 01:42

That may be a useful distinction. Linguists certainly do concentrate almost exclusively on spoken language. Obviously, in historical linguistics, that can't be done directly, so the linguist studies syntax and tries to deduce phonology from written texts -- hence the overlap with philology. I don't know enough about non-historical philology to comment definitively whether spoken language enters the picture much. Although philologists certainly may have an interest in the spoken language -- I understand that Tolkien loved to read Beowulf aloud (in the original, of course!).
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"At myself. My little puny self," said Phillipa.
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 31 Jan 2007, 17:41

In looking over the file of the posts from the original study of TDI back in 2003, I notice a post from "shaina" (whom I no longer know how to contact -- if she is still here under another name, maybe she can identify herself). Shaina's post on this section has some interesting comments and questions (there were no replies to it on the original study), so I'll repost it here:

Lewis' description of the 'Aristotelian' separation between earth and sky somehow reminded me of his description of 'space' in
OSP:

" . . . 'space' seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam. . . . He saw now that it
was the womb of worlds, whose blazing and innumerable offspring looked down nightly even upon the earth with so many
eyes--and here, with how many more! No, space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it
simply the heavens--the heavens which tell the glory . . . "

Perhaps he adopted the Aristotelian concept of aether when describing the "heavens".

I suspect (though I may be wrong) this book, as it introduces me to the Medieval mindset, will take me along a thread of
looking harder at our modern, western mindset. Whenever being introduced to another Philosophy, I generally take note of the
differences between the philosophy being introduced and the one I currently hold (asking myself why there is this specific
variance, or how it came about, etc.). And as the philosophy being introduced (the Medieval one) is supposedly the one my
current philosophy evolved from, I am even more curious to see how changes have come about. Of course, depending on what
sort of twists and turns this book takes, I may easily abandon this thread of thought (or it may abandon me). But having said
that, these first five pages already have me going:

Aristotle was a sort of biologist and astronomer of the ancient world. What strikes me is that his scientific studies don't seem
to be at all at odds with his religion. In fact, that not only seem to be 'not at odds', but they (his science and religion) seem
rather inseperable. Science is one hand of truth and religion the other. Science supports (and perhaps refines) religion and
religion gives meaning to science. I don't get the feeling that Aristotle chose one over the other (I might be very wrong here,
though, as I'm not terribly familiar with Aristotle's works--someone more educated than I a may correct me, in which case my
following question will be null:-).

Of course, today there seems to be a rather wide gap between science and religion. I know there are religious scientists (and
scientific religiousists?); I'm not necessarily talking about the difference between religious people and scientists. I'm rather
talking about the gap in two different ways one may percieve life: one is either making objective scientific observations or
responding to nature in worship. It is a distinction that, perhaps, has not always been (or perhaps, it has). If the distinction has
not always been there I wonder how it came about? And even if it has always been there, why?

Anyhow, already way off the topic of the book, but what the heck .


I'd be interested to hear any replies to shaina's comments, even though she may not be around to respond...

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
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Postby girlfreddy » 01 Feb 2007, 05:00

That "lack" of defining line between science and religion is something I noticed in reading some of the classics a few years ago. Blaise Pascal is a great example. He uses his mind and theories to expand knowledge and understanding in the field of mathematics and equations, and yet writes a timeless script almost comparable to Proverbs. I have read "Penses" and it must have been a most difficult endeavor to undertake, but he did. And his belief in God did not detract from his understanding of the natural world and the elements within. In fact, you might be able to say that it enhanced it with the strong anchor; in the end, the answers to questions would be found.

In another vein, Emily and Charlotte Bronte blew my mind when I read them. Their seemingly "basic" knowledge of Biblical principles far surpasses most of todays "Christians". In fact, IMO, were they to live in today's world, I would suspect that people would see them as theologians or Biblical scholars. It would seem that years ago, God infused people through society, His Word, His Spirit; now, that is not the case (and I am not saying that God is not working still. He is). But I do not read His Word daily as I should; I didn't grow up in a two parent household that believed in Him and showed His love. Nor did I grow up in a neighborhood that practiced the old adage of, "It takes a village to raise a child". Therefore God's Word and His Spirit are not completely "in" me, living and breathing and alive. Because of this "lack" in me, my intellect, creativity, emotions, and physical being are not as one with God. When reading many of the older writers, whether they be authors of novels, or poetry, or physics, I sense something there that I do not have. Or maybe better to say it this way. I have a dividing line in me and those who went before didn't. And I see this as such a failure and loss, sometimes almost too much to bear.

Pascal described it beautifully when he said, "...in a soul that will live forever, there is an infinite void that nothing can fill, but an infinite unchangeable being." This is the "God-shaped hole", and in this day and age, it seems to be more the norm than ever that this hole is not filled with God, but with anything else we can try to fill it with.

This is another quote from Penses.

The sciences have two extremes which touch one another; the first is that simple native ignorance in which all men are found at their birth; the other is that to which great minds attain, who having traversed every part of human knowledge, discover that they know nothing, and find themselves placed in that very ignorance from which they set out. But this is a wise ignorance which knows itself. Persons between these two classes who have escaped from their native ignorance, but have not yet reached the other, possess some tincture of satisfactory knowledge, and form the class of men of talent. They disturb the world, and judge worse of everything than others. The common people, and men of talent, compose, in general, the busy actors of the scene; the rest despise the world, and are despised by it.

And maybe this explains the linear distinction in some and not others. Some quit before finding the answers, being satisfied with only a little taste rather than stopping at nothing to get to the whole.
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Postby bruce n h » 24 Aug 2008, 19:23

Hi again,

A couple of thoughts on pages 1-5. Perhaps this better belongs later on when we get to the discussion of the divisions of the solar system, but I remember being quite excited after reading DI when I was in Ephesians and ran across:
Eph 2:2 - in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

Perhaps I'm reading this incorrectly, but I think that Paul is here reflecting his knowledge of Greek scholarship and an Aristotelian view of the solar system, where this world, the changeable one, is the kingdom defined by the air, where Satan holds sway, in contrast with sky above.

On the divisions between science and religion, I know we'll come more to this later, but I was just reading the Wikipedia entry on the flat earth myth, and they made the point that it was really in the nineteenth century that the division got emphasized (Darwin etc) and people now mistakenly feel that the division in the middle ages and later was greater than it actually was. I'm reminded of Tycho Brahe, who wore his best court robes when he looked through his telescope, because he felt he was entering into heavenly courts (the heavens and earth declare the glory of God).

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Postby bruce n h » 26 Aug 2008, 19:36

Sorry for the double-post. Anyway, finding this group has got me excited about reading more Lewis, so I pulled Christian Reflections off the shelf. The first essay is "Christianity and Literature", which made a point very apt to Lewis' discussion of the medieval mindset of following ancient auctours. In this essay he is addressing what "Christian" literature might be and he notes:

I found a disquieting contrast between the whole circle of ideas used in modern criticism and certain ideas recurrent in the New Testament. . . . . What are the key-words of modern criticism? Creative, with its opposite derivative, spontaneity, with its opposite convention; freedom, contrasted with rules. Great authors are innovators, pioneers, explorers; bad authors bunch in schools and follow models.


He then goes on to outline various passages from the NT that show a hierarchical worldview where we copy those above us, e.g. Christ saying that he watched the Father and did what he did.

Applying this principle to literature, in its greatest generality, we should get as the basis of all critical theory the maxim that an author should never conceive himself as bringing into existence beauty or wisdom which did not exist before. . . . . Our criticism . . . would have . . . remoter affinities with . . . the Augustan doctrine about the imitation of Nature and the Ancients.


He goes on to clarify that Christian lit could indeed be original, in that it did not have to come from copying prior poets/authors, but that it should seek to embody some external beauty or truth, not just the interior of the author. However, I think the medieval view of drawing on prior poets certainly fits into his view of Christian lit much better than the modern criticism he discusses.

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Postby Tuke » 27 Aug 2008, 23:18

I bought a used copy of EMW Tillyard's Elizabethan World Picture. Interesting how its content parallels The Discarded Image. Tillyard and Lewis co-authored The Personal Heresy.
"The 'great golden chain of Concord' has united the whole of Edmund Spenser's world.... Nothing is repressed; nothing is insubordinate. To read him is to grow in mental health." The Allegory Of Love (Faerie Queene)

2 Corinthians IV.17 The Weight of Glory
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